4 Event Planning Lessons for Putting Out the FYRE (Festival)
Updated: Sep 21
At this point, you’ve probably either heard about or watched the documentaries that Netflix and Hulu have produced on the infamous Fyre Festival. It has gone down in festival history as the most promising, ultra-luxurious festival experience that flopped before it even started.
On April 27, 2017, attendees experienced the disaster first-hand as they flew into the island of Great Exuma where the festival took place. Upon arrival they found half-constructed tents instead of upscale villas, poorly made meals that consisted of slices of bread, cheese, and lettuce instead of gourmet chefs, and unorganized amenities that caused everyone to go on a survival frenzy of ‘first come, first serve’ grabbing anything they could to make it through the next few days.
The event was immediately canceled at the last minute, which caused all attendees that flew in to be stuck with only one small airport in the Bahamas that was closed for the night. The two founders, Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, have already received numerous lawsuits that has resulted in millions of dollars so far. They’ve also been banned from holding any future events in the Bahamas and McFarland stripped from the opportunity of ever being a CEO again.
But, it isn’t all bad. There are valuable event-planning lessons that have transpired from the series of unfortunate events.
1. Influencer Marketing is Valuable
The most successful thing that Fyre Festival did was influencer marketing. They essentially sold tickets by creating FOMO (fear of missing out). The Fyre team made an experience that everyone wanted to be a part of and didn’t want to feel excluded from. Flying in popular celebrities and social media influencers, such as Kendall Jenner, Hailey Bieber, and Emily Ratajkowski, down to Exumas for the creation of promo content was a smart tactic. This strategy allowed the festival to take advantage of their followings that increased the hype as each photo made it to Instagram.
An orange square was the next campaign to follow. In December 2016, over 400 influencers posted the festival logo on their Instagram accounts. People had already started buying tickets before the full lineup was announced, which proves that with strong planning and execution, any festival can thrive off influencer marketing.
2. Safety is the Utmost Priority
For starters, the initial island that the festival was planned to take place on was once owned by Pablo Escobar, a Columbian drug lord. It gave a fantasy resort perspective unlike any other festival on the market. However, it was irrelevant and raised many red flags that would become the safety hazards that shut down the event.
Being aware of every possible outcome of an event, even the negative ones, is vital. The comfort and safety of attendees should be the utmost priority. Take the time to sit down with team members and brainstorm any problem that could arise, then find a reasonable solution. This will ensure a solid infrastructure and preparation for a successful event.
3. Plan Before Promise
Promo videos released about four months before the event and showcased yachts, jet skies, crystal blue waters, and celebrities living their best lives. It was promising to the viewer creating a preconceived idea of what to expect upon purchasing a ticket, which were priced from $5,000 to $250,000. The reality of the situation was clear upon arrival to the island. At this point, there was no turning back.
Every promise that was made was eventually debunked. The luxury experience that so many paid a high price for turned out to be a low-budget disaster. Set the correct expectations for potential attendees. Be sure to have sponsors, staffing, activiations, lodging, catering, and other elements to the event solidified before promoting.
4. Honesty is the Best Policy
In today’s Digital age, there isn’t a thing you can hide. Many posts about the festivals failures went viral on social media. This caused an uproar among those who weren’t event attendees. The downfall was exposed on a world-wide scale as the truth finally came out leading up to the release of Netflix and Hulu’s documentaries. The planners could have prevented disappointment and backlash had they been transparent from the start.
Crisis management is an important aspect to consider when putting an event together. Part of that is the old saying ‘honesty is the best policy’, as it provides credibility and lessens the effect of backlash. When something goes unplanned be sure to shed light on it. It’s almost guaranteed that if you don't, someone else will.
Take these lessons into consideration when planning an event. Trust every gut feeling and use intuition to guide you through the process. Keep various perspectives in mind; how it is perceived by the attendee, media, influencer, and planner. This combination is your blueprint to success and the prevention of creating Fyre Festival 2.0.
Speaking of events - if you find yourself in the San Antonio area, we’re co-hosting an interactive event with the lovely ladies of VIDA Magazine. Camp VIDA presented by VIDA x People’s Revolt will feature brand installations, activations, and a curated fashion show in honor of their second edition release. It’s all going down on Saturday September 7, 2019 at Brick (108 Blue Star San Antonio, TX 78204). For more information, click here and we hope to see you there.